The number of job vacancies in March to May 2021 was 758,000, only 27,000 below its pre-pandemic level in January to March 2020 with most industries recovering to show vacancies above pre-pandemic levels.
March to May 2021 saw quarterly growth of 24.0% (146,600) compared with last quarter, with all but one industry increasing their number of vacancies - the largest increase was seen in accommodation and food services at 265.5%; this quarterly growth reflects the earlier indications of recovery seen in our experimental monthly vacancies data, and our experimental Adzuna online vacancies data, both of which surpassed pre-pandemic levels in May 2021.
The relaxation of lockdown restrictions has aided recovery across all size bands with quarterly increases across each in March to May 2021.
The total number of workforce jobs in the UK in March 2021 was an estimated 34.6 million, down by 1.1 million from a year ago; on the quarter, both employee jobs and self-employed jobs displayed upward movement helping the overall workforce jobs figure to show a quarterly increase for the first time since December 2019.
In March to May 2021, the estimated number of vacancies reached its highest level since January to March 2020 (which is a pre-pandemic period), with growth continuing in the most recent quarterly estimates.
The headline vacancy estimates are based on three-month averages, which naturally involve some time lag. Insight into trends in May 2021 are provided by two experimental sources -- single-month vacancy estimates (see Strengths and limitations), in Dataset x06, and Adzuna Online job advert estimates.
Quarterly growth was reflected in 17 out of the 18 industries, the most notable was in accommodation and food services indicating an industry reacting quickly to the easing of lockdown restrictions. This sector saw a large increase in vacancies, up over 260% on the quarter, with some evidence to suggest that vacancies have been created by workers not returning to their previous jobs as this sector reopened.
Growth from a pre-pandemic January to March 2020 is positive in the majority of industries with the largest increase in electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply, up 81.8%. The rate of recovery since January to March 2020 has improved in all industry sectors apart from public administration, defence and compulsory social security.
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Figure 4 shows estimates of workforce jobs for March 2021. The estimates are provided from various sources. Those of employee jobs in the private sector are drawn from surveys relating to a reference date, 12 March 2021, whereas those of self-employment jobs are drawn from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), which covers a three-month period from the start of February 2021 to the end of April 2021. As outlined in Section 7: Measuring the data, LFS responses are weighted to official 2018-based population projections on demographic trends that pre-date the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. In our Coronavirus and the impact on payroll employment article, we analyse the population totals used in the LFS weighting process and state our intention to make adjustments. Rates published from the LFS remain robust, however, levels and changes in levels should be used with caution.
In March 2021 there were an estimated 34.6 million jobs in the UK. This represents an increase of 151,000 from December 2020, the first positive quarterly movement in workforce jobs since December 2019 and driven by an increase of 109,000 employee jobs.
The March 2021 estimate represents a fall of 1,056,000 jobs from March 2020.
The total number of jobs includes both employee jobs and self-employment jobs, with both rising from December 2020. Employee jobs rose by 109,000 on the quarter but fell 744,000 on the year with a similar pattern reflected in the number of employees on payroll reported in the Earnings and employment from Pay As You Earn Real Time Information, seasonally adjusted dataset.
Coronavirus has affected job numbers adversely across the majority of industries with those sectors hardest hit displaying large falls from the same time last year. Accommodation and food service activities have seen the largest number of job losses with 351,000 (13.9%) since March 2020. The other notable industry to have been most affected is arts, entertainment and recreation, which fell by 161,000, and also displays the largest percentage fall of any industry at 15.4%.
Of all the industry sectors, only three increased job numbers over the 12-month period, the largest from public administration, defence and compulsory social security with 67,000 more jobs, with a large contribution from recruitment for Census 2021; human health and social work activities was up by 59,000, and real estate was up by 3,000.
More recently there are signs of recovery with 11 industry sectors showing positive growth over the quarter from December 2020, contributing to an increase of 151,000, with transport and storage services up by 62,000 (3.6%), displaying the greatest single sector increase.Back to table of contents
Vacancies by industry
Dataset VACS02 | Released 15 June 2021
Estimates of vacancies by industry (Standard Industrial Classification 2007).
Workforce jobs summary
Dataset JOBS01 | Released 15 June 2021
Estimates of jobs by type of job (including employee jobs, self-employment jobs, HM Forces and government-supported trainees).
Workforce jobs by industry
Dataset JOBS02 | Released 15 June 2021
Estimates of jobs by industry (Standard Industrial Classification 2007).
Vacancies are defined as positions for which employers are actively seeking recruits from outside their business or organisation. The estimates are based on the Vacancy Survey; this is a survey of employers designed to provide estimates of the stock of vacancies across the economy, excluding agriculture, forestry and fishing (a small sector for which the collection of estimates would not be practical).
A job is an activity performed for an employer or customer by a worker in exchange for payment, usually in cash, or in kind, or both. The number of jobs is not the same as the number of people in employment. This is because a person can have more than one job. The number of jobs is the sum of employee jobs from employer surveys, self-employment jobs from the Labour Force Survey (LFS), those in HM Forces and government-supported trainees. The number of people in employment is measured by the LFS; these estimates are available in our Employment in the UK release.
A more detailed glossary is available.Back to table of contents
Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) publishing review
- The Office for Statistics Regulation (OSR) is undertaking a review into whether the 9:30am release time stated in the Code of Practice for Statistics meets the needs of users. During the pandemic, exemptions were granted to allow the release of market sensitive statistics at 7:00am. OSR welcomes views about the release time of official statistics by Friday 25th June 2021, please send comments to: email@example.com.
For more information on how labour market data sources are affected by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, see the article published on 6 May 2020, which details some of the challenges that we have faced in producing estimates at this time.
An article, published on 11 December 2020, compares our labour market data sources and discusses some of the main differences.
Please be aware that as a result of ongoing developments to the weighting of LFS estimates during the pandemic, for our September publication this year, we intend to revise the LFS-based components of workforce jobs back to the beginning of 2020. For more information on the changes to LFS weighting methodology through the pandemic please see our article on the LFS Survey weighting methodology.
Impact on production of vacancy and workforce job estimates
Because of social distancing measures leading to the temporary closure of businesses across the UK, there have been some difficulties in collecting data using the Vacancy Survey and the Short-Term Employment Surveys.
Survey response rates were lower than is typical. To protect the quality of our output, we have used alternative sources where possible to inform data. We have used Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) section-level indications from the Business Insights and Conditions Survey (BICS), as well as survey contributor-level comments provided to us over the telephone or electronically, as a guide on whether businesses are operational and likely to be actively recruiting, and to confirm employment figures.
The data in this bulletin come from surveys of businesses. It is not feasible to survey every business in the UK, so these statistics are estimates based on samples, not precise figures.
Estimates of vacancies are obtained from the Vacancy Survey, a survey of employers. Adzuna Online job advert estimates are also published as part of the Economic activity and social change in the UK, real-time indicators release.
Estimates of jobs are compiled from a number of sources, including Short-Term Employment Surveys (STES), the Quarterly Public Sector Employment Survey (QPSES) and the Labour Force Survey (LFS). STES is a group of surveys that collect employment and turnover information from private sector businesses. In December of each year, the jobs estimates are "benchmarked" to the latest estimates from the Business Register and Employment Survey (BRES).
The STES estimates are drawn for a specified date early in the last month of each calendar quarter. The March 2020 data were from 13 March 2020 before the start of coronavirus social distancing measures.
For more information on how jobs data are measured, please see the Measuring the Data section in our previous release
The sampling variability of the three-month average vacancies level is around plus or minus 1.5% of that level expressed as a coefficient of variation, giving a 95% confidence interval for estimates of approximately plus or minus 20,000.
The sampling variability of the three-month average vacancies level, for a typical industrial sector is around plus or minus 6% of that level.
|SIC 2007 Section||United Kingdom|
|Estimate for Mar 2021||Sampling variability of estimate¹|
|A||Agriculture, forestry & fishing||378||±45|
|B||Mining & quarrying||58||±7|
|D||Electricity, gas, steam & air conditioning supply||147||±9|
|E||Water supply, sewerage, waste & remediation activities||206||±9|
|G||Wholesale & retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles||4,828||±57|
|H||Transport & storage||1,782||±44|
|I||Accommodation & food service activities||2,185||±55|
|J||Information & communication||1,452||±53|
|K||Financial & insurance activities||1,141||±31|
|L||Real estate activities||651||±44|
|M||Professional scientific & technical activities||3,237||±76|
|N||Administrative & support service activities||2,841||±63|
|O||Public admin & defence; compulsory social security||1,614||±16|
|Q||Human health & social work activities||4,471||±60|
|R||Arts, entertainment & recreation||884||±49|
|S/T||Other service activities/Private Households||964||±45|
Download this table Table 1: Sampling variability for estimates of jobs in the UK, thousands.xls .csv
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